Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Stoves, Scarves, Schools and Survivors: More from Kathy in San Antonio Palopó

November 6-21, 2010

Good news that comes from one of our team in Victoria: Miguel Granados, Director of Productos ONIL at HELPS, confirms that by replacing an open hearth fire with an ONIL stove we are saving 3.4 tonnes of emissions per year from entering the atmosphere.  In terms of carbon offsets it is at least two return flights to Guatemala! And I will add in terms of health it is saving lives and suffering from dreadful illnesses.

Greetings all,
Lots of catching up to do.  I got a little distracted when friends (Melanie and Michael) arrived in Antigua to celebrate my birthday!

To pick up where I left off:
While I was in Antigua I managed to do not only the Stove Fair, with a large amiable group of Rotarians from Oregon and California, but I went to the offices of WINGS/ALAS ( to find out what information they have regarding reproductive health and family planning and what tools they might share for teaching it.  We ask every one of our stove recipients to come to a meeting that includes this subject as well as nutrition, health and hygiene.  WINGS is a gold mine and they have an educator that will come for one of our sessions.  This year we will also have a program for men in each village and are in the process of organizing that.  I have no idea what the outcome (meaning attendance) will be.

Women demonstrate the Ecocina Stove
The Ecocina stove looks good.  It is smaller, very portable and is less costly, seems to do the same job as the Onil although I don’t know if it saves as much wood or reduces the carbon output as much.  Research to be done.  The day was fun, began with breakfast at Fernando’s and getting to know a few people.  Then a few hours at the factory, including a traditional dance performed by local children, women selling their woven products, a tour of the factory and a demonstration of how the stoves are built.  One good thing is that in reality they can’t be tampered with or altered (unlike the ONIL with which there is a tendency to enlarge the opening of the fire box in order to put in larger pieces of wood and get a bigger fire going – which can crack the concrete and if used correctly really isn’t necessary).  After this we were transported to a restaurant that fed us Mexican food and then to the main square where the stoves were being set up, lit and eventually women were cooking pupusas (a filled tortilla specialty from El Salvador) on them.  And there were some folks interested in the stove itself but it seemed that it was mostly our group in the square for a long time.  All in all it was an informative day, albeit long.

Two days in Antigua was very pleasant but enough, so I returned to San Antonio with my friends in tow.  And during the week they were here I got some work done and they saw parts of it, and some of the surrounding villages around the Lake as well. They helped me buy scarves to ship back to Canada, had fun in the Bomberos’ market buying old huipiles and fabrics, visiting the market in San Lucas, breakfasting at the Hotel Toliman, picop and boat rides to different places like Santiago and Santa Cruz, all this while I was attached to my cell phone wherever we were so my ‘work’ could continue.  We all went to a young gals high school graduation family gathering and were served the traditional Pulique. 

Melanie (below) did a mandala drawing workshop with nearly 40 children in the Centro Qa Winak’ and started it with Capacitar exercises. The gals have now organized 2 more mornings for groups of children during the school vacation. All in all it was a lot of fun, more or less ending with a delightful walk up to the Catarata or waterfall, high up above this village on a very beautiful day. 
There is still a lot of water coming over, more than I’ve ever seen before.  The terrain was much changed since I was last there. That is true of many of the paths in the village too. 
I went to a grade nine (Basico) graduation at the school (Instituto) as we had two scholarship students graduating and they wanted me to take pictures…… and the Director surprised me by asking me to get up on the stage and give them their diplomas!
As soon as Melanie and Michael left and I realized how much time had gone by, rapidly, I did something to my knee that basically has greatly limited my activities.  It’s gone from canteloupe size to a large grapefruit, with rest and applications of vinegar or aloe, turmeric and traumeel (internally), and use of pressure points.  Let me tell you it is a real handicap in terrain such as this.  BUT the benefit is the stove groups are doing most of the work and I am not playing mountain goat as usual….. and they are getting much more accomplished more quickly than they would with me accompanying them.  Also perhaps, this is the way it should be….. with them deciding and running the show with an ICO representative for oversight and asking the questions that are important to us.

Already the date for meetings with stove recipients had to be changed because of Santa Catarina´s Fiesta day Nov. 25 (St. Catherine´s Day) – nothing will get done for a few days on either side of that.

Two evenings ago, on my balcony, I met with a small group of 6 women weavers from the group that lost everything including family members, in the Agatha mudslide.  We were trying to figure out a way to help them get back to work.  The Hornby Island weavers gave a nice sum of money for women weavers affected by the disaster so this seems like a perfect fit. It was nice just sitting here with them, listening to them discuss things in Kaqchikel and then explain to me a bit of what they had said.  Some spoke no Spanish. However, I think I have mentioned before, the pain and suffering is often almost palpable. 

The next couple of weeks will be taken up with stove meetings, trainings, deliveries and installations; getting some computer classes running at one of the schools (part of our Centro Qa Winak’ program), upgrading the temporary school, checking up on scholarship students who don’t seem to be doing their volunteer service at the Centro, and spending more time with families and assessing needs, for future ideas in the Centro Qa Winak’.

Meanwhile the weather has been beautiful. There is a wee bit more activity on the tourist front in spite of the fact Americans (and maybe Canadians) have been warned not to come to Lake Atitlan for the next month because the main road from Solola is closed for major repair since the land slide and an older route (which involves fording a river where the bridge was washed out) is being used which ‘they’ say is very dangerous (meaning robberies).  I have taken that route with no problem and Guatemalans are making sure it is safe.  So, if you have plans to come don’t change them….. the Mayans need you and your business.

A couple of nights ago I was woken by a very loud and strange sound emanating from just outside my room.  It turned out to be a Taquacin, 2 in fact, squabbling over something.  I only saw the tail ends which looked hugely ratlike.  Evidently they are marsupial, related to possums.

And for now you have read enough and enough has been written.  Bless you for your interest.  Hope you get to take advantage of scarf sales in Victoria, sounds like they will come in handy for the weather!

Warm regards from beautiful Guatemala,

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